Back to the basics
December 1, 2009 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I really like the idea of text-based programs like WriteRoom (Mac) or DarkRoom (Windows). Are there similar applications for other purposes?

I am looking for any software that is more or less text-based, is not a game and runs with Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. Examples would be a text based email-client, text based to-do list or a text based diary.
posted by jfricke to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Examples would be a text based email-client
Alpine (formerly Pine)

Also, Lynx is a text-based web browser.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 9:55 AM on December 1, 2009

posted by sinfony at 9:55 AM on December 1, 2009

Try console application as keywords in your favourite search-engine and I think you'll make some good headway. Windows is obviously tailored to a graphical interface, so I think you'd be best looking towards Unix/Linux console applications then finding either native window versions of them or using Cygwin which will allow you to run Linux/Unix programs on your windows machine.
Mac OSX, I believe just needs XCode installed, then you can install the ports collection for easy access to a wide variety of applications.

Having a quick look through the ports collection now:

Email: Pine or Alpine (there is a native Windows version of Alpine)
TODO: Devtodo, or a text editor.
Diary: I think that would be covered by a text editor:

Decided to answer a post about console applications. Decided that when it comes down to it, a decent text editor with a search function will cover 90% of tasks that require storage of user input.

How long before EMACS is mentioned?
posted by Static Vagabond at 9:56 AM on December 1, 2009


There ya go, Static Vagabond. :)
posted by jingzuo at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2009

I wrote a text-based Twitter client called Quitter. Cortex thinks it's "deeply badass". :)

posted by DWRoelands at 10:00 AM on December 1, 2009

Pretty much anything that's designed to be run in a *nix like shell - lots are already built in to OSX, and ports are available for Windows, especially via cygwin.

Favorites include vim (text editor), irssi (irc client) (can reach various IM networks via bitlbee), rtorrent (bit torrent), mutt (email), elinks (web browser), slrn (newsreader), canto (RSS reader) etc etc...

Once you're dealing with plain text, it's very simple to script any required functionality e.g todotxt.

(On preview, pretty much what everyone above said :) )
posted by dirm at 10:10 AM on December 1, 2009


it's unix/linux, but I'd imagine it'd work on the mac more or less out of the box, and on windows via cygwin.
posted by lex mercatoria at 10:12 AM on December 1, 2009

I like herrie. It's a music player.
posted by jingzuo at 10:23 AM on December 1, 2009

Also, Launchy, for application launching.
posted by sinfony at 11:26 AM on December 1, 2009

A couple of biggies for me that haven't already been mentioned: wget and curl for downloading/mirroring.

And it's already been mentioned, but I'm going to do it again anyway: Vim. Vim is life!
posted by kmz at 11:31 AM on December 1, 2009

These interesting articles got me using emacs as a text editor for my big life file. Emacs is nice because you can download windows binaries and don't have to mess with cygwin. And it comes with a diary mode and can support to-dos easily.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2009

Quitter is indeed deeply badass.
posted by desjardins at 12:17 PM on December 1, 2009

Surprised no one mentioned Hog Bay Software's other product, TaskPaper, yet.
posted by MikeHarris at 12:19 PM on December 1, 2009

You may also find DTerm of relevance.
posted by MikeHarris at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2009

Also, this is my own "jotting notes down" Unix script:

if [ $# -eq 0 ]    # Script invoked with no command-line args?
	echo "Usage: `basename $0` options:"
	echo "--note -- note"
	echo "--search -- search"
	echo "--console -- show in console"
	echo "--edit -- edit in TextWrangler"
	echo "--show -- display"

if [[ $1 = --note ]] ; then
	tmptimestamp="`date +\"%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S\"` $2"
	echo $tmptimestamp > /tmp/temp-log-line.txt
	prepend /tmp/temp-log-line.txt /Users/mharris/Archive/Backups/personal-notes.log
	rm /tmp/temp-log-line.txt
	echo -e ""
	echo "Logged."
	echo -e ""
	head -n 1 /Users/mharris/Archive/Backups/personal-notes.log
	echo -e ""

if [[ $1 = --search ]] ; then
	grep --no-filename --ignore-case "$2" /Users/mharris/Archive/Backups/personal-notes.log

if [[ $1 = --console ]] ; then
	open -a '/Applications/Utilities/' /Users/mharris/Archive/Backups/personal-notes.log

if [[ $1 = --edit ]] ; then
	edit /Users/mharris/Archive/Backups/personal-notes.log

if [[ $1 = --show ]] ; then
	tail -r /Users/mharris/Archive/Backups/personal-notes.log

posted by MikeHarris at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2009

Hm. That does require prepend, which is a python script I downloaded from somewhere. But, still, it's something to work off of.
posted by MikeHarris at 12:30 PM on December 1, 2009

My favorite text editor: gVim! I use a FireFox plugin called "It's All Text" to let me edit web form textareas in gVim, and I also just use gVim alone for making todo lists, notes, and all kinds of useful little text files-of-a-moment. Bonus: Vim exists for just about every platform, and I use it at the Unix command line for web work.
posted by amtho at 12:39 PM on December 1, 2009

Re: Emacs, I use the add-on VM (View Mail) facility for e-mail, used the built-in Emacs RMAIL before that, and can't bring myself to use any other mail client on the desktop -- a reluctance which has its ups and downs. 17 years and counting.
posted by galaksit at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2009

And also in Emacs... org-mode, which takes "life in a text file" to new extremes. Outlining, todo, diary/journal, time log, tables with formulas, embedded code, etc., all infinitely customizable, and a great example of how much you can do by manipulating plain text.
posted by robt at 11:34 PM on December 1, 2009

This is pretty easy if you allow for OSX or Cygwin, since most stuff should port easily from Linux to these platforms. In particular, ncurses is a popular library used to implement these things; so a quick search of the Ubuntu repos yields a fantastic number of possibilities.

Beyond what's already been mentioned:

* ncurses-hexedit. A hex editor. Maybe not so handy for you, but it doesn't get much more back to basics than hexeditors.
* tina, a tiny PIM. Never used it myself.
* juke, kinda like itunes I guess
* mplayer-aa. Transcodes video to ASCII text.
* LinuxTrade, apparently gone closed source, but purports to be a real time trade display. I imagine it can be brought to OSX despite the name.

If you allow for DOS, there's also some text stuff that gets pretty complicated. Old old norton stuff, Xtree, and word processors. And I guess spreadsheet stuff like Lotus 1-2-3.
posted by pwnguin at 4:57 PM on December 3, 2009

« Older Are my skills employable in Ca...   |  How to help an elderly family ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.